Manning Valley resident Alan Catt has been associated with television for 40 years. At a time in life when most would be looking for quieter times, Alan is now launching his newest venture: “Visions of Oz”. Meet the man who is one of the icons of the Australian television industry.
> What made you decide on a career in television?
Dad owned a nursery at Carlingford and I was expected to follow the same career. It was a secure future, but when Channel 7 built their new studios at the back of our property, the world of media sparked my interest. I asked for a job to see what it was like and was given one as a stage hand.
> It obviously had appeal; what age were you?
I was 16. It was exciting from day one; it was a great opportunity. I worked my way up the ranks to become a cameraman and had a two year break doing National Service.
> Your two-year break doing National Service never stopped your enthusiasm?
No way! I was keener than ever! When I was discharged I joined Channel 10 in their second year as a cameraman. After 7 years I was moved into the hot seat of directing in 1974, with the inaugural Rugby League Amco Cup plus the Mike Walsh Show, numerous quiz shows and news/current affairs.
> Was it exciting in those early days?
Most productions were live to air, and this left no room error. One great thing were the live to air programs with a studio audience giving terrific interaction – it had a great buzz.
With live shows you had to have your wits about you – no room for complacency.
> You have forged some life long friendships during your career …
John Singleton and Wayne Pearce (the football legend) are two very close friends. John Williamson is another.
> We know the media industry has a bag full of mixed personalities; who have been the best to work with?
John Singleton was the best, because over the years we developed a great working relationship. It was a joy; he never interfered. He left it all to me.
> Graham Kennedy is considered the best ever in Australian television. What made him so good, and was he easy to work with?
He was the ultimate professional. He was a perfectionist – a genius and a fantastic person. He knew what made a show tick and worked in great harmony with the director – he truly was the ‘King’.
> Your wife Lyn has also forged a successful career in the arts. How have the two careers combined?
It has been a good combination – being in the business, she understood the industry. It has been a relationship of great harmony. She has been terrific support and has sacrificed a lot – particularly when I was absent overseas. She was left to care for our two daughters.
> Your two daughters have established careers in the world of media?
Yes, they have done well. Tanya is a dancer and owns a dance school in Sydney. She has also performed on television and at the Opera House, plus she has done some acting.
Lisa is in advertising and publishing. She has written a book, which was successful, and my son-in-law is a well known artist and is a regular entrant in the Archibald Prize.
> You have had a long association with the Ten Network and have linked again to promote your new venture “Visions of Oz”. Focusing on the spirit of Australians and their perceptions, how did the idea come to fruition?
Several years ago I produced a series with John Williamson called True Blue … and numerous other documentaries with Australian themes. It gave me enjoyment and a passion for highlighting our great country. We have so many characters in this country – mostly unsung heroes. Everyone has a story! You can choose any postcode, and there will be a story from the country and city.
Focus and journalist Peter Lyne have had an influence with their stories, with their profiles of achievements, characters and organisations. Pete and I have teamed up to do this project.
> You say everyone has a story. Can you give us an idea?
That is easy. Across the great spectrum of life I have worked with people such as Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer to Tiny Tim and Tina Turner. Yes, their stories are interesting. But there are millions of Australians who have great tales. Everyone has a story.
> The new venture will enable characters and people from everyday life in Australia from the country to the city to join in the project?
We all have a different perception of our country’s vision and its people; this is an opportunity for everybody to record their visions, fact or fiction, which will hopefully explore their creativity. This material can then be the foundation of a new exciting television series which will have a very special theme.
It will show the contrasting aspects of Australian life and provide a window of the vast country. It will be an exploration through a camera with a story, song, poem etc.
> You have had support from many well known past acquaintances for this project, including John Singleton and his son Jack.
They are like me – excited – and agree it is a worthwhile project. It is the independent spirit of the people … the qualities that bind a nation despite our differences and the great distances that separate our communities.
John and his son are great lovers of this country and its people; that is why they have agreed to judge the entries – they are committed to promoting all Australians. Today, our technology (like digital cameras and digital computer editing) has given Aussies the chance to contribute.
> How can people enter?
We are asking people to make a three minute DVD of their perceptions through their eyes with vision. Everyone has a story from a story: songs, poetry, pictures and a yarn that depicts the basis of our lifestyle and perceptions of life.
It must be creative – fostering warmth and personal expression with the subjects and/or characters from all walks of life – a history maker, farmer, businessman, housewife, self employed, school children, professionals, unemployed, television or radio personalities, inventors, artists, politicians, men or women. They will emerge from all walks of life.
> There are great prizes to be won. Apart from winning, how will we get to see the entries?
Southern Cross Ten and Focus have been supportive, with Focus publishing some of the entries, and it is our intention to have a travelling festival of the entries in an exhibition in the Focus regions. Then hopefully we will head around the country.
We will have two sections: one to make a 60 second commercial that has the potential to sell Oz (Oz Ad) and then an open and junior section.
Anyone with a digital video camera can use their creativity, imagination or show us a reminder of the past.
Southern Cross Ten have been a great support. We will work with Focus and the TV network.
> Your retirement has obviously been shelved?
The industry has been good to me, and it is time to put something back. You never know … we may find another Baz Luhrmann. If we make any money, then it will go to saluting this nation’s backbone: the Volunteers’ Association.
> Thank you Alan.